On 22 March 2021, Sergeant Major of the Army, Michael A. Grinston, formally announced the Army Combat Fitness Test (ACFT ) 3.0. This adaptation of the ACFT came into effect on 1 April 2021. It includes six events (Three-Repetition Maximum Deadlift, Standing PowerThrow, Hand-Release Push-Ups, Sprint-Drag-Carry, Leg Tuck or Plank, and Two-Mile Run). Its one significant change is that it adds the Plank as a full 100-point.

The Army Was forced to Add the Plank Since Less than 10 Percent of Women Could Do a Single Leg Tuck

The Army went in full scramble mode to find an alternate event that women could pass without actually lowering the standards or saying that men and women needed different scores to pass.

An Army staff sergeant completes a deadlift repetition during the U.S. Army Japan 2020 Army Week’s Army Combat Fitness Test Fitness Warrior Competition.
Staff Sgt. Sharonica White completes a deadlift repetition during the U.S. Army Japan 2020 Army Week’s Army Combat Fitness Test Fitness Warrior Competition at Camp Zama, Japan, June 8. (U.S. Army/ Winifred Brown)

In addition to this change, ACFT 3.0 explored the establishment of an evaluation system where performance categories may be used to proportionally tier ACFT performance according to gender.

Did the Army Admit the Physiological Differences Between Men and Women?

If the tiered system were gender-neutral, many women would look weak. There would be virtually no women in the platinum or gold tiers, thus hurting promotions for them. So they were forced to separate the two.

These proposed performance tiers include:

  • Platinum (top 1 percent; female/male);
  • Gold (top 2-10 percent; female/male);
  • Silver (top 11-25 percent; female/male);
  • Bronze (top 26-50 percent; female/male);
  • Green (Soldiers who pass the ACFT, but do not place in the top 50 percent of scores across the Total Army.)

According to the latest Inspector General (IG) report, under ACFT 3.0, these performance categories would be calculated annually based upon ACFT scores from across the force. Categorizing scores into tiers allows for variations in height, weight, test conditions, slope, surface, etc. Further, it recognizes physiological differences between men and women while fostering and recognizing above-average physical performance.

Soldiers vie for Region II 'Best Warrior’ title
Staff Sgt. Cassandra Black, 70th Regional Training Institute, Maryland National Guard, participates in the leg-tuck portion of the Army Combat Fitness Test (AFCT) May 17, 2019, during the Region II Best Warrior Competition at Camp Dawson, West Virginia. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Bo Wriston)

The Army wants to finalize these standards. Yet, it doesn’t have the amount of data required to make sound decisions. A source at Fort Jackson, who conducts the testing with trainees, has told SOFREP that virtually no women are passing the test.

Because of the Lack of Testing Conducted, the Results Will Not Be Linked to a Soldier’s Permanent File Until Further Testing

The Fort Jackson source stated that “This is a joking matter and a way for the Army to continue looking like they are trying to do the right thing. We have been conducting these tests on thousands of trainees for about a year. The data is sent to the Army every month; they know that women are failing in drastic numbers… Regardless of the results, we are forced to graduate them.”

In addition to these changes, soldiers and leaders should be aware of the following:

  • All units will conduct a minimum of one ACFT and record the results in DTMS before 31 August 21 (per HQDAEXORD 144-21).
  • The ACFT is a training requirement in Initial Military Training, but not a graduation requirement.
  • Soldiers with a permanent profile should execute any events their profile permits. Soldiers on a temporary profile that prevents a full six-event ACFT should recover, rehabilitate, recondition, and then complete a full ACFT.
  • During FY21, Soldiers attending institutional training courses that require a physical fitness test as an entrance requirement should use their last record APFT score. However, functional course commandants may continue to establish their own course-specific physical performance requirements.
Minnesota National Guard Soldiers Practice the ACFT While Deployed
Soldiers from the 834th Aviation Support Battalion held a familiarization class on the Army Combat Fitness Test (ACFT). This training allowed the soldiers to get a feel for what to expect from the new test. (Photo by Sgt. Sydney Mariette/DVIDS)

Many in the military are upset with these changes. One recently retired Special Forces member said to SOFREP that he is glad to be retired and that “if the Army was a stock market, I’d cash out.”

The testing takes a lot of equipment, which the Army is still fielding out to units. It’s a ton of gear and requires a lot to set up and break down. This is a chief complaint among soldiers. However, to train for the events, you don’t need to always have this equipment available and can do alternate exercises.